Wednesday, October 6, 2010


A few weeks ago Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark's mayor so he could improve his city's public schools.This morning it was reported that veteran Wall Street deal-maker and poobah Henry Kravis gave $100 million to his alma mater Columbia University.

At age 26 Zuckerberg is a multi-billionaire on paper. I've seen estimates in the $2-5 billion range. No one knows his net worth because the company is private. Kravis has been exceedingly rich for a long time and now in the late afternoon or early evening of his career has popped for the largest gift he's ever made.

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of this old and new philanthropy. Both gifts are to education, one from a college dropout (okay Harvard) and one from a B to C student with a Columbia MBA. (I can but conclude that dropouts and C students run the world). Zuckerberg's gift is bold; Kravis' gift is old. Both men are Jewish. I don't know if that matters but they are.

I don't mean to be churlish but Kravis' gift is self-serving, inner-directed like most alumni giving and in support of the status quo. Zuckerberg's gift is outer-directed away from whatever his personal passions are and really quite objective, growing out of a chance meeting (well not exactly chance. Sheryl Sandberg the grown-up Zuckerberg hired away from Google to lend gravitas to what seems a nerdy high-top frat party arranged several "chance meetings" with major philanthropists).

I think Zuckerberg is a genius; I think Kravis is an extremely smart and quite generous transactional society philanthropist (i.e, he likes the limelight) - and a decent fellow from what I've heard. But what has he invented? Produced? Changed? Created? And for this he has made buckets of money. Zuckerberg, whatever you think about Facebook, actually makes a product that doesn't pollute the environment or poison his workers. In the doing he has revolutionized communications less than a generation after Bill Gates and Steve Jobs completely upended computing (as IBM slept). And if he's not quite living over the store his housing arrangements are reported as indistinguishable from a dorm room.

Kravis has a Facebook page. I doubt Zuckerberg even has a broker.